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Get into the streets for Mother Earth

HONG KONG (SE): On November 29, the eve of the beginning of the United Nations Conference of Parties on Climate Change in Paris, people in Hong Kong responded to the call of Pope Francis to get out onto the streets and plead for the environment.

An animated Pope Francis said that he wants mess and bustle in the dioceses in his call to Catholic people to get out onto the streets.

“I want you in the name of God to defend Mother Earth,” Pope Francis said, as he emphasised his words with excited hand gestures.

In Hong Kong a pilgrimage set off from Pier No. 9 at 3.00pm on the eve of the meeting of world leaders under the banner of the Global Climate March.

The group joined in solidarity with people the world over, from the Americas to Africa, and Scandinavia to Australia, in support of the pope’s call to take the Church into the streets for Mother Earth.

People walked along the Central District Promenade to Golden Bauhinia Square in Wanchai under the theme, Turn Off + Turn On.

The message is, “Turn off fossil fuels and turn on renewables, clean and safe energy.”

In a letter of support to the over one million Catholics who have joined the pilgrim movement, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Peter Cardinal Turkson, said that Pope Francis argued before the United Nations in New York in September for what he termed in Spanish, Derecho del ambiente, or The law or right of the environment.

But Cardinal Turkson says that we cannot just rely on world leaders to take action. He said that Pope Francis told a gathering at the World Meeting of Popular Movements earlier this year, “The future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands of great leaders, the great powers and the elite.”

The pope said that rather, “It is fundamentally in the hands of peoples and in their ability to organise. It is their hands, which can guide with humility and conviction this process of change.”

Cardinal Turkson also reminded bishops that, at the conclusion of the Synod on Family Life the Church on every continent signed an appeal for justice for Mother Earth urging Catholic people the world over to get behind the campaign.

Global Climate Pilgrimages took place in over 3,000 cities around the world, with the major ones in London, Berlin, Madrid, Amsterdam, Bogata, Johannesburg, Dhaka, Kampala, Omaha, Rome, São Paulo, Sydney, Seoul, Ottawa, Tokyo and Paris.

Although the march in Paris was cancelled, climate pilgrims flocked to the host city.

Father Joe Ryan, from the Justice and Peace Commission in Westminster, England, said that being part of a bicycle pilgrimage that he joined that set out from the cathedral in London in August was an awesome experience.

Ellen Teague reported that groups from Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Italy, France, Vietnam and The Philippines were joined by others from Britain.

She said that each displayed a symbol from their pilgrimage and sang a theme song, standing up in turn in their colourful sweatshirts and walking boots.

The Pilgrimage2Paris walkers, an ecumenical group dressed in turquoise, which had set out from St. Martin in the Fields in London two weeks ago, sang, To be a pilgrim, pointing out that everywhere they stopped they highlighted the value of God’s creation and the effect climate change is having on the world’s poorest communities.

A group from The Philippines, led by the high-profile former government climate negotiator, Yeb Saño, sang a rousing song in Tagalog, which had a few tongues tied trying to join in the chorus.

He told Teague, “This has been a powerful manifestation of the people’s will.”

Saño said that his group, which had walked from Rome to Paris, was made up of diverse nationalities, backgrounds and religious traditions.

“But we have been able to be on pilgrimage together for a better tomorrow,” he said, adding that even though he is only an observer at this year’s conference and not a negotiator, he still wants to be able to tell his children he did his best for their future.

Saño began his pilgrimage at his home in Tacloban in the southern Philippines, which was badly damaged by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in 2013.

He then went to the Church of the Sto. Niño, which has undergone extensive reconstruction since the day the winds blew.

In Manila, Climate Pilgrimage organisers said they would push ahead with their plan to march on November 28 to farewell the negotiators from their country attending the meeting in Paris and present them with 12 demands that they believe must be met to preserve their beautiful land.

They said that even if terrorist threats forced the march in Paris to be cancelled they would go ahead with their plans, despite any threats that may be made against those joining in.

Father Charles Rue, who is in Paris from Australia, said that he is marvelling at the Church response to the call of Pope Francis, as he remembers that when the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace called a Consultation on Climate Change at the Vatican in 2007, more than half of the guests on the invitation list were climate change skeptics.

“Eminent scientists and archbishops were ridiculed by a selected group of lobbyists from the fossil fuel industry and acolytes from some universities. Thank God for the new direction under the leadership of Pope Francis given in his encyclical, Praise Be: On care for our common home (Laudato Si’),” Father Rue said.

In an appeal to the negotiators in Paris, the Vatican says, “The building and maintenance of a sustainable common home requires courageous and imaginative political leadership. Legal frameworks are required, which clearly establish boundaries to ensure the protection of the ecosystem.”

It was a day for the people to express their will.

 

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